Despite being created in the 80s, it wasn’t until the 1990s that the JRPG genre hit its stride, with developers going to create some of the greatest games of all time, with games such as Final Fantasy 7 pushing the genre into the mainstream where it remains today. Here are the top 10 best JRPG games of the 1990s.
10. Panzer Dragoon Saga (Saturn)
Panzer Dragoon Saga is often hailed as one of the best games on the Sega Saturn, with it regularly selling for over $1000, becoming one of the most sought-after games with collectors. This is due to the source code being lost many years ago, which prevents it from being ported to other platforms.
9. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (SNES)
The Super Mario series became a JRPG in the mid-90s in perhaps the most unexpected spinoff title ever released. Leaving behind the traditional platformer style that players had become accustomed to, Square took to transforming the game into a turn-based JRPG similar to games such as Final Fantasy. The game is one of the best-looking titles on the SNES, with it using 3D models as opposed to the 2D style we were used to from the series, as well as Super Mario RPG being the last Mario game to be released on the platform. Despite being an RPG, the game still has some traditional Mario elements, such as punching floating question blocks from below. Super Mario RPG sold approximately 2 million copies and performed well with critics, with the game going on the spawn the popular Paper Mario series which has been released on every Nintendo console since the N64.
8. Phantasy Star IV (Genesis)
Although it received mixed reviews at launch, it has garnered a lot of popularity in more recent years. Phantasy Star IV was the last game to be released in the series in 1993 before after a seven-year ago the series returned as an MMORPG. The game became one of the most expensive games of the era, retailing at just under $100 at launch, which may have played a part in the criticism the game received.
7. Final Fantasy IX (PlayStation)
The final game in the series to be released on the PlayStation, Final Fantasy IX is often hailed as one of the greatest games of all time, selling over 5.5 million copies during its initial release, even though it was released after the PS2 had already launched. Final Fantasy IX features some of the best characters in the series, such as Zidane, Princess Garnet, and Vivi, as well as some of the best minigames in the series, Chocobo Hot and Cold, Jump Rope, and Tetra Master. The game has been ported to various platforms over the years, but we still hold out for a remake one day.
6. Secret of Mana (SNES)
Secret of Mana saw Square begin a brand new JRPG series alongside Final Fantasy, with the game set to be marketed as a new brand franchise, despite being a direct sequel to 1991s Final Fantasy Adventure. Secret of Mana sold approximately 2 million copies and performed well with critics, although the series never quite achieved the same success as Final Fantasy.
5. Earthbound (SNES)
Originally released as a Japan-exclusive, Earthbound didn’t see a western release until it was released on the Wii U Virtual Console. When it comes to JRPGs, Earthbound is one of the best and is often hailed as not only one of the best SNES games but one of the greatest games of all time.
4. Pokemon Red & Blue (Game Boy)
When Pokémon was first released in Japan in 1996, and later in the west in 1998, it became an instant hit and helped spawn the biggest media franchise in the world. Pokémon Red and Blue, or Red and Green in Japan, is where it all started, with players setting out on a brand new adventure to collect a variety of creatures called Pokémon with the aim to battle them and become the best trainer in the world. The game became an instant smash hit and the talk of the town, with an anime, trading cards, and plenty of merchandise being released shortly after. Today, the series is still going strong with games being regularly released, including two-generation 4 remakes being released before the end of the year, and a new adventure launching in January 2022.
3. Final Fantasy VI (SNES)
Final Fantasy VI is the final game in the series to be developed in 2D before the series went 3D from Final Fantasy VII onwards, and this is certainly the best of the 2D era. By this point, Square had really fine-tuned the formula for making a great Final Fantasy game, with it being hailed as one o the best in the series, as well as one of the best JRPG games of all time.
2. Chrono Trigger (SNES)
Chrono Trigger is often regarded as one of the greatest games of all time, sitting at an impressive 96% on Game Rankings. The game originally didn’t see a European release, not releasing in the region until the DS version in 2009. Europe truly missed out on one of the best RPGs of all time. If you missed this back in the day, now is a perfect time to finally go and check it out.
1. Final Fantasy VII (PlayStation)
Final Fantasy 7 helped to bring the JRPG genre to the mainstream following its release in 1997. Up until this point, the genre had remained fairly niche, but that all changed with the PlayStation classic. Final Fantasy 7 has gone on to become one of the most influential games of all time, with the title selling over 13 million copies, becoming the best-selling entry in the series. Square-Enix is currently working on remaking the entire game, which will be released in parts, with part 1 releasing in 2020. It will likely be many years before the full game is released, but it will be worth the wait.